Majority Leader repeats call to build capacity of MPs

Accra, June 03, GNA – Majority Leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu on Wednesday repeated a call to build the capacity of Members of Parliament and complained about the high attrition rate from the House which attributed to monetization of the nation’s politics.

He said: “Parliaments and parliamentarians must be capacitated,” adding that “building the capacity of Parliamentarians is not a four-year effort.”

In a statement at a round table discussion at the Parliament House, Osu-Accra, attended by the Chairpersons and Ranking Members of various committees of the House, the Leader observed that building the capacity of a legislator requires much longer time.

And if “such members are seen to be generally incompetent, parliament is significantly weakened,” but “as a general rule, the longer one stays in Parliament, the better Parliamentarian the one becomes.

“The MP becomes very knowledgeable, experienced and a prolific debater and law-maker,” he said.

The Majority Leader, an advocate for sharing committee chairmanship among the parties in Parliament, however, admitted that there is extreme partisanship of some MPs especially some in leadership.

These, he said, are otherwise normally intelligent people,” and that makes one a bit nervous about what kind of polarization and rabble rousing such a move could possibly engender” in Ghana’s parliament.

He announced that the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs has started a dialogue session with the political parties, the NCCE, the academia, civil society organisations and the media, he identified as all sharing in “the principle that the high attrition rate in parliament is turning out to be a curse.”

He used the forum, which was on the theme: “Parliament and the Sustenance of Ghana’s Democracy 2020 and Beyond,” to acknowledge that for the “first time in the history of the 4th Parliament, at the behest of Mr Speaker, the first Meeting of the 4th session was suspended instead of rising sine die as is usual.

That, he said, was due to the presence of the COVID 19, but during the suspension, Members of Parliament heeded the clarion call and supported the Executive and sat for four times.

“Our sacrifice has not gone unnoticed by the nation,” Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said, and conveyed the gratitude of President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to the Leadership and the House as a whole.

The Majority Leader reiterated some of the functions of Parliament as representation, deliberation, information transmission, legislation, and financial control.

Others are oversight, problem resolution, ratification of agreements, loans, treaties, and protocols, but the legitimacy of Parliament is measured by roles that they perform and how effective they are.

The Majority Leader, however, complained that “increasingly the house is being served with statements that are not well-researched.

“Some Members submit Statements which are saturated with half-truths and plain untruths. Parliament and Parliamentarians must always speak to credible, authentic information, not as we are seeing these days, statements drawing from opinions expressed in the social media. That is unhelpful and not academic,” the Leader said.

He suggested to Committees of Parliament to operate independently from party discipline, and that “the non-partisan nature of Committee work could be reinforced by spreading chairmanship among the various parties represented in parliament rather than allowing government party members to dominate.

Minority Leader and MP for Tamale South Haruna Iddrisu said the Parliament of Ghana has not lived to the desired expectation and had failed Ghanaians woefully in holding the Executive responsible since 1993, citing in recent times, expenditure related to COVID 19.

He cited a number of instances of Parliament failure in holding the Executive accountable the finance administration of the State.

Mr Iddrisu said: “Government in the last three months has had to spend US 1 billion Rapid Credit Facility from the IMF; Government is currently borrowing $219 million from the Sinking Fund or Contingency Fund.

“If you read the tenure of Article 177 (1) and (2), Parliament has only lived the first part of the constitutional provision- Finance Committee scrutinizes and give approval.

“Article 177 (2) requires that when the Minister of Finance takes the money, he must come to Parliament as soon as practicable or possible… with a supplementary estimate. Parliament has slept over that.

“Since the Minister of Finance came for the US$ 219 million … he has failed to come back to Parliament to account and to provide for what you may call an accountable imprest. Only yesterday, the Minister of Finance was in Parliament to borrow, and to borrow some GHC 10 billion; no scrutiny, no itemized expenditure dedicated to the 10 billion. All we are told is Budget Support. A nebulous wholesale word of Budget Support!,” Mr Iddrisu said.

He added: “So the 10 billion, how is Parliament holding the Ministry of Finance accountable for the 10 billion?

“Suffice it even to add that the Minister of Finance is engaged in illegality and the justification is that ‘we are not in normal times. We are not in normal times does not mean lawlessness.”

Dr Evans Aggrey-Darkoh, the Chief Director of the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, said the planned programmes of the Ministry had to be suspended in response to the directives issued by the President and concentrate on critical administrative deliverables.

He said the nation face an existential threat with the onset of coronavirus and reechoed that the Ministry of Finance anticipates that the virus would certainly result in significant shortfalls in petroleum receipts, shortfalls in import duties, increased in other tax revenue and increase in health related expenditures.

Other effects are tight financing conditions and Coronavirus Alleviation Package.

Dr Evans Aggrey-Darkoh announced that the Ministry is pursuing three strategic objectives such as supporting the deepening of democratic governance, improving the participation of civil society, including media, traditional authorities, religious bodies in national development, and promote the fight against corruption and economic crimes.

The engagement with the Core Leadership, the first in 2020, is interrogating how the Parliament of Ghana, through its core and auxiliary functions is sustaining Ghana’s democracy the election year, 2020 and beyond.

The round-table would examine the responsibility of leadership of Parliament in sustaining Ghana’s democracy especially in an election year and beyond, interrogate the execution of the core and auxiliary functions of Parliament in sustaining Ghana’s democracy and foster effective collaboration between the Core leadership of Parliament and the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs for the sustenance of democratic political system.